Surround yourself with good people who truly care about you. It doesn’t have to be many, but even one true friend can make the difference. Have a good support system.
As a part of my series about pop culture’s rising stars, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing comedian Or Mash. Born and raised in Tel Aviv, Israel, Or is fierce, funny, and full of material based on her diverse background. After serving in the Israeli army for 2 years, she embarked on a lucrative career in the online gaming industry, and despite her success, woke up one day and decided that she would rather make people laugh than continue to sell Apps to men in suits. In a mission to fulfill her true passion of stand-up comedy, almost overnight, Or moved to Los Angeles and began her career in comedy. While doing stand-up shows at historic clubs, such as The Comedy Store and the Improv, she also graduated from the esteemed UCLA Writers’ Program. She has written and produced an episode for her own show “Mashed,” which was directed by Matthew Harrison (Sex and the City). Or’s stand up is a raw, honest and unapologetic look at her own life. She offers a hilarious outsider’s take on modern American culture and society from the perspective of a fearless Israeli immigrant.
Thank you so much for doing this with us Or! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
I’m originally from Tel Aviv, Israel. My mother found out she was pregnant with me after years of trying with no such luck. She was convinced she was barren, and my parents were already looking into adoption. My name, “Or,” means light in Hebrew. I always thought it was because I was the light of their lives being first born. Turns out, they just wasn’t sure if I was a boy OR a girls and OR is a gender neutral name!
When I was a young child, the Gulf War was happening. The United States fought Iraq, and Iraq sent missiles on Israel. There were sirens going on and off, and we had to go to hide in the building’s bomb shelter. I remember being in the bomb shelter and one of the neighbors was trying to get TV reception. Finally, the screen popped up with a comedian telling a joke. I remember the feeling of the comedian in the tiny TV who became my window to the world at the time. The sound of laughter from my family and neighbors sitting in the shelter taught me about the power of comedy and how it can alter any reality or situation. I wonder if that comedian who did his late night set ever imagined he would give hope and inspire a 4-year old Israeli kid watching him from a bomb shelter.
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
After completing my service in the Israeli Defense Force and finishing college, I built a career in the online gaming industry. I was doing well, and enjoyed my life, but something always felt missing.One day, I got the flu and It wasn’t getting any better. I went to the doctor and he asked me if I was sad or stressed. He refused to give me medication and sent me home to look after my mental/emotional well-being. Shocked by his response, I went home and started thinking why was I not truly happy. I was clueless because I thought I did everything right — went to collage, worked a good job and had a full social life. Suddenly, I got an idea — if I want to get out of this state, I needed to shake my soul — do something out of the ordinary, something that scares me. Stand-up comedy was the first thing that came to mind but I immediately brushed it away. Finally a week I decided that I’d give it a shot — but if I was gonna do it, I’ll do it like they do in the movies, in NYC or LA. Initially I didn’t come here to become a comedian — I came to find myself through comedy and planned to take a writing class, do a show or two, and then go back. When I got on stage for the first time I felt truly alive and decided this is better then taking anti-depressants.
Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
I sometimes wear wigs or hair extension pieces for shows. During one of the shows, I only had 3 people in the audience. I had absolutely no choice but to go out to the street and force random pedestrians to come see us! What made it even harder was the fact that people don’t really walk in LA at all. Luckily, I noticed a group of seven bikers, and I knew I had to get them in the show. I stopped them, started talking, and just as I was pointing to where to see the show, my pony tail hair piece fell to the ground. That got their attention for sure. One of them looked over at me and said, “I’ll come to your show, only if your hair falls off again on stage.” My hair didn’t fall on stage again, but we filled up the room and it ended up being one of my favorite shows.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I failed a class called “how to make it in Hollywood.” I was two credits short, and this class was exactly two, so I took it thinking it will probably be fine. I had the longest day before the class, and I was so hungry that I just had to eat something. I picked up a Falafel pita and arrived a bit late. I didn’t think it would be a problem to eat, but the falafel was wrapped in foil paper, and every bite was excruciatingly noisy. The teacher got so annoyed that he kicked me out, failed me, and shouted that I will never make it In Hollywood. I learned from that experience to always eat on time and never trust tin foil.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
My sister and I are launchinga production company called ‘MASH SISTERS’! There are already a few projects in the pipeline under the ‘Mash Sisters’ umbrella, which I’m very exited about. I have a weekly storytelling podcast called ‘F That Podcast’. We host top and fresh comedians and personas who share their unique stories — Available on YouTube and Soundcloud! I’m also part of a reality show and tour called ‘The Nobodies’ — an eclectic group of six unknown female comics who go on the road together with the goal of becoming established stand-up comedians. Last but not least, I just finished shooting my comedy ‘MASHED,’ directed by Matthew Harrison (Sex and the City).
I’m very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture?
When I was a little girl in Israel, we only had the blond barbie. It made me feel that me being brown is not beautiful. Diversity in representation is key to educate our children that being different means being unique — and that is beautiful. Social media opened up a whole new world of opportunity for what we see on our screens, so now the viewer can be the content creator. That said, the entertainment industry still has a lot of effect on public perception, our culture and future. You can tell a lot about a culture in a point in time just by watching the shows that were on.
From your personal experience, can you recommend three things the community/society/the industry can do help address some of the diversity issues in the entertainment business?
I would say representing people as individuals and not just by their ethnicity because that creates more segregation. What we want is a reality where everyone is valued for being human and as an individuals, regardless of their ethnicity. We should cherish cultures, but not group people into boxes of stereotypes.
We’re all under one race — the human race.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- Surround yourself with good people who truly care about you. It doesn’t have to be many, but even one true friend can make the difference. Have a good support system.
- Failing is important to be better. Dare to fail and to sometimes suck too. Part of getting better in your craft is eliminating the things you shouldn’t do.
- Do it yourself- don’t wait around for something happen or someone to ‘pick you.’ Rather, release your own content, be consistent, and do everything in your power to reach your goals.
- In LA when people say, ‘see you later,’ they have no intention of actually ever seeing you again. In the beginning, I though it was me, but then I understood it is literally JUST a figure of speech.
- No matter what your friends or family tell you, there is no such thing as a quick stop at Target.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
If you are a comedian, it means you took a serious choice to look at the funny and silly side of life. It’s easy to get lost in the world of entertainment, but don’t ever forget the real reason you got in this — to make people happy, laugh, and escape their troubles. That’s the real reward. Never lose the fun in it by taking it too seriously.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
My father once told me that if every single person would focus on bettering themselves, we’ll have a better world. What sometimes happens is that we try to better others and the world, yet we forget about our personal responsibilities. You never know how much difference you can make on people by just being kind.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
My sisters and I are very close, and I consider them my best friends. Whenever I’m feeling down, unmotivated, or even when I need some inspiration, I call the Mash sisters. They are each unique individuals, and together, we’re like a force. Generally the women in my family are very strong and inspiring.My mother taught me how to be creative and a boss, and my grandmother taught me how to be an independent woman. Of course, I can’t leave out my dad who always told me that thought creates reality. He is an innovative coder, and I learned from him that in business, you don’t take no for an answer.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
A stranger in Israel once told me, ‘If you let fear drive your path you might end up in a scary destination.”
I held back on a few decisions in my life because I was comfortable in where I was and felt scared to make a change. Then I learned that this behavior only left me comfortable and unsatisfied. I reached a stage in my life that making a change wasn’t nearly as hard as living a life unfulfilled.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
Larry David is my all-time idol. If I had a wish, It would be a Larry David kind of goof around. Weather he is really goofing around, or makes it seem so effortlessly, I think he is truly brilliant. I watch Curb Your enthusiasm and Seinfeld from Israel, and I loved Sour Grapes and many of his stuff. Moving from Israel to America and choosing to be a comedian isn’t always an easy journey, but in times I feel down, I tune in to one of Larry’s stuff and immediately feel better.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
This was very meaningful, thank you so much!